The Impact of the Recession on Public Library Use in Colorado

In winter 2011, LRS conducted a study on the recession’s impact on public library use. The findings indicated that in 2006 to 2007 (prior to the recession), use, as measured by visits, circulation, program attendance, and Internet use, remained relatively static or decreased in Colorado public libraries. In contrast, use increased by between 6% and 28% during the recession (2007 to 2009).

Public libraries have been a key resource for Coloradans during both the recession and the post-recession recovery period, providing community gathering space, access to entertainment and educational resources, and information about job hunting, economizing, and other topics that are particularly relevant during this time. Assistant Commissioner Gene Hainer commented, “This study supports what many people know, but that the media and political leaders rarely acknowledge; that libraries—and the staff therein—are essential assets to communities in times of financial stress. Far from being just places for books and children’s stories, libraries are a critical lifeline to state residents from all walks of life.”


Closer Look ReportPDF document
This report provides detailed results of the study.
Fast FactsPDF document
We’ve also released a Fast Facts summarizing the key findings.


  • Public Library Statistics & Profiles
    Dive into annual statistics from the Colorado Public Library Annual Report using our interactive tool, results tailored to trustees, and state totals and averages.
  • School Library Impact Studies
    School libraries have a profound impact on student achievement. Explore studies about this topic by LRS and other researchers in our comprehensive guide.
  • Fast Fact Reports
    Looking for a quick rundown of library research? Check out our Fast Facts, which highlight research and statistics about various library topics.


LRS is part of the Colorado State Library, a unit of the Colorado Department of Education. We design and conduct library research for library and education professionals, public officials, and the media to inform practices and assessment needs. We partner with the Library and Information Science program at University of Denver's Morgridge College of Education to provide research fellowships to current MLIS students.

This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

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